Remote work
How to set your
workforce up
for success

Author: Heidi Vella

For many, the pandemic has made homeworking the new normal. While this has largely been considered a positive transformation, it has also blurred the lines between home and work life, perpetuating an "always-on" culture that can result in employees feeling burned out and overworked.

Stressed employees are, ultimately, unproductive ones. Managers are searching for ways to foster a healthy, effective workforce that doesn't feel the need to work unnecessarily long hours. Remote work technology is one such tool. Together, technology and remote working can cultivate a connected, collaborative and—most significantly—productive workforce that doesn't feel the need to stay logged on when it should be clocking off.

Understand problems with presenteeism

Presenteeism is defined as "being present at one's place of work for more hours than is required."  According to experts, pervasive presenteeism can occur as a manifestation of job insecurity or as a symptom of unhealthy workplace culture. Its overall impact is injurious; studies show it can cause burnout, depression, low morale and poor performance. In turn, it can lead to absenteeism as the pressure to always be available becomes unsustainable.

On the face of it, homeworking should be the ultimate antidote to workplace presenteeism. Employees aren't in the office but at home, after all. Yet despite this, reports suggest in the last year symptoms of burnout are increasing among employees and leaders alike. The number of hours worked around the world went up, not down. This suggests staying away from the office didn't solve presenteeism; it just gave it a new guise.

Prior to COVID‐19, most companies and employees had little remote working experience, and the quick change didn't allow time to adjust to remote work technology. Suddenly adrift from the office, many employees may have found it hard to "prove" their productivity. They perhaps felt staying logged in and replying to emails at all hours was the best way to demonstrate their commitment to the company, putting pressure on others to do the same.

Mitigate the stress of performativity in the workplace

Study after study shows high employee productivity, and not high employee attendance rates, is what counts toward company success. A Gallup analysis demonstrates this well; it found employees who frequently experience work burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.

Yet the analysis notes simply reducing hours isn't the answer. While hours worked are an important factor, the stronger influence on burnout is how people experience their workload.

The analysis suggests engaged employees with job flexibility tend to work higher hours per week than the average employee but report higher well-being. Motivated and supported employees are more likely to work more—and they'll consider that work significantly less stressful.

This is where technology and remote working are vital. Managers can lead by example, provide support, set boundaries and seek to deploy the most effective remote work technology to foster connectivity, collaboration and productivity. But senior leaders must support managers to do this or risk burnout culture quickly spreading through the workforce.

Empower workers to collaborate

A Harvard Business Review study found employees forced to work from home (WFH) were the least motivated. The study found ways to turn this around quickly, such as by partaking in positive motivators, including:

  • Play, such as the joy of problem-solving with a colleague
  • Maintaining purpose by keeping the reason for doing the job—clients and outcomes—visually front and center
  • Focusing on employees' potential by enabling access to colleagues that can teach and help them develop

Technology and remote working go hand-in-hand when trying to foster a collaborative and engaged work culture.

Give employees the right remote work technology

Remote working is expected to be a positive legacy of the pandemic; long after COVID-19 ceases to dominate the headlines, encouraging staff to work flexibly or at home when ill will still be valuable. Therefore, it's important to empower WFH employees with remote work technology and tools.

Encourage employees to invest in their remote workspace

This might seem simple, but it's important to encourage staff to invest in work-from-home essentials. A dedicated work area, a comfortable desk chair, fast Wi-Fi and a good headset are all technology and remote working staples. Separating workspaces from leisure spaces will also encourage productivity in one area and relaxation and family life in the other.

Unify company communications

Critical foundational applications for remote work technology, such as unified communications as a service (UCaaS)—a cloud-based all-in-one communications software service—can enable business continuity from office to home, facilitating seamless remote communications. With such remote work technology, collaborative work tasks, such as brainstorming and troubleshooting, and useful feedback sessions can be scheduled with ease and security.

Mobile phones equipped with business grade features enable employees to be as productive at home as they were in the office. Features like hunt groups and auto receptionists can make sure that customer calls get routed to the right person regardless of their physical work location.

Create virtual workspaces

Use remote work technology to set up collaborative online workspaces where employees can share ideas, information, feedback and data. For example, UCaaS platforms offer administrative tools that can visualize colleague availability, performance statistics, diagnostics and other necessary insights. Encourage colleagues to use note-taking apps to stay organized and visually motivated; they'll also be able to share notes more quickly with colleagues.

Use technology to automate some of the work

Shift repetitive tasks and simple decision-making to machines, so employees have more time to focus on collaboration and creative tasks that require critical thinking and cooperation. Furthermore, use remote work technology to set boundaries—set a company-wide cut-off time for sending and receiving emails, for example.

Create an agile organization

Create an agile organization that continually drives workplace improvements. Adopt short working and feedback cycles with rapid decision-making and remote weekly sprint reviews.

When it is time to go back into the office - even if only for a few days a week - it's important that employees have a seamless experience, so that the tools they use while working at home to communicate and collaborate work the same way as in the office.  A mobile-first UCaaS solution provides employees access to the same communications tools whether they are working from home, in the office or on the go.

These can help your organization check work progress, inform future planning, and define objectives and key results. And all of these can be supported by the remote working technology discussed here.

Discover more about how to improve the work from home experience, including tips for leadership.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.